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This domain focuses on the natural resource base that supports agriculture (e.g., soil, water), the environmental services directly affected by agricultural practices (e.g., habitat, water-holding capacity), and the level of pollution resulting from agriculture (e.g., pesticides, greenhouse gases).


Vegetative cover

Vegetative cover is the percentage of ground area that is covered by vegetation (canopy cover) that may be in natural landscapes or agricultural areas. It can come from a variety of sources, including field crops, cover crops, and trees.

Plant biodiversity

Biodiversity is examined in terms of the number of plant species and is focused on the richness (number of species in a sample) and evenness (the distribution of species within the sample). It can be measured at field, farm, and landscape scales.

Pest levels

This indicator focuses on examining the pest levels that may have an effect on agricultural productivity.

Insect biodiversity

This indicator focuses on number of species of pollinators and other beneficial insects plus the richness of these species (evenness and abundance).

Fuel (energy) availability

Fuel is very important for livelihood in a developing country's agricultural landscapes. In many cases in rural areas, biomass energy is the dominant form of fuel and includes wood, charcoal, crop residues, and manure.

Water availability

The water availability indicator assesses whether there is sufficient water for both plant growth and human consumption. At the field level, the indicator examines the presence of adequate moisture in the growing season and also excess water that would be detrimental to plant growth.

Water quality

The water quality indicator provides information on the fitness of water for crop, livestock, and human consumption.


Erosion examines movement of soil from a field; soil can be moved by water or wind, and erosion is often one of the main processes leading to soil degradation. It is difficult to quantify and so is often ranked or evaluated from a qualitative assessment.

Soil carbon

Soil organic matter (SOM) integrates many soil properties and can serve as an indicator of the soil’s health and level of various soil processes.

Soil chemical quality

Soil chemical quality refers to both the acidity of the soil and the nutrient content of the soil. Nutrient partial balance is a useful and parsimonious metric that examines nutrient output and inputs for a given area (output minus input to the soil).

Soil physical quality

The physical structure of the soil allows the infiltration and storage of water as well as the movement of air into and out of the soil, all of which is critical to maintaining a physical environment in which the plant grows. 

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions

We do not recommend this indicator.

Pesticide use

Pesticide use focuses on the risk and environmental impact of pesticides on water quality and death of species.